Return of the Crystal Skull

Indiana had his adventures with a Crystal Skull and I have been eyeing up the one my wife received for Christmas, just waiting for it to be emptied of its tasty contents. I have been wanting to see how light reflects through it when it is empty as well as when it is full of liquid. A little experiment to satisfy my curiosity and to help me understand the effect of water as a diffusion device. It has been empty for a couple of weeks now, just waiting for me to make my move on it wondering what I had in store.

The Crystal Skull. Empty, its contents consumed by worthy adults.


I finally decided to try my experiment out but it took motivation from another object to really get me going with this. A little get together, a nice fire and a warm house prompted  our guest to remove an article of clothing………… a sheer, fashionable scarf. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!  While it was being folded I noticed it was see through……ding, ding, ding…diffusion device! Grabbed the camera, the scarf in between my lens and a vase of roses, SHABANG! Yes, I stole that word from a head shot photographer I follow. Seem to fit though. So, today the skull, my wife’s purple scarf (with black skulls on it no less) and I became acquainted.

Before we get to carried away, the original intent of this little project was to measure light refraction through glass, with and without water. The set up for these shots – an 85 1.8,  a glass end table, glossy black wrapping paper with a cut out of the base of the skull, a speedlite set at 1/4 power and zoomed to 105 mm and the Rogue Grid with the 45 degree head on. I also used some gels for added effect. The flash was placed on the ground, underneath the table and pointed of course, straight up.

I was not liking the look with the cap on so I removed it to decrease the bounce and to eliminate over cooking the top. So here is the empty skull without cap and a view of the cut out…..whoops.


And full of water:


For overall appearance, I think I am liking the empty version better. The water does bring out certain facial features in the mouth and chin area and picks up the purple gel more but it dulls the top. It also carries the light through the hole in the top which is why I took the cap off. I bet a couple of drops of red food coloring would have been cool. Save that for another day.

Time to break out the scarf…..hung up on a stand about 8  inches in front of the skull. One more speedlite, through a 12″ octobox, was added overhead to assist in lighting the scarf. The skull was still full of water.

Scarf camera Close

Good stuff. The water gets dumped, changed the gel to red and I do not remember what prompted me to try it with the cap on. The scarf was moved closer to the skull so I could get more…..skulls in the shot.

Red cap on

And with the cap off, I also moved up.

Red cap off

I think it is very interesting the way the gel is coming through. Looks like it is bouncing all over and not quite sure what little crevice to fill. I did the red gel a couple of days after  we got this, lots of liquid still in it and it filled the entire skull up. The difference in that shot is that is was straight through a glass base and not directed by a cut out.

My final shot in the sequence with the scarf was placing the scarf against my lens hood – very interesting results. Had to focus manually as well.

against hood off A very interesting and enlightening time with the scarf and the skull. And…..possibly feeling the effects of this crystal skull too much, I decided to change colors one more time and see if I could make a happy skull. Believe it or not, this is a Pink gel……

Pink Gell

Pretty in Pink?  Whoa, Flashback……whatever happened to Molly Ringwald?

I hoped you enjoyed my little experiments. Thanks for stopping by!

Till next time….

A Wintery View

With Winter waning

it lets us know

I’m not done yet

here’s some snow.

It’s been quiet all season

Perhaps, there’s a reason.

It’s almost like something new.


A Wintry view

JBSNOWpSp-11 Bridgephilshepherd

A Mighty Tally for the Dance Team

What a fantastic weekend! The dance school had 15 numbers in their latest regional competition held in NYC – The total tally was 12 Firsts, two seconds, one third, Best Costume, Overall top score Large Group, First runner up high score small group  and second high score runner up for Line.

Fourteen dance schools gathered in Brooklyn for this regional competition. All of our dances were in one day which meant a very long day for the team. The first one kicked off at 08:15 and the last one went on at 21:15.  I was exhausted by the end and all I did was take pictures of them, I can only imagine how they felt. Our daughter was in six of those dances including the first one and the last one but her adrenaline was still going at 23:30. Ah to be young again….

I was chided by my wife for not getting many pictures of our daughter during one particular dance but here’s the thing – when I am shooting them I do not look at who they are, I look at how they are. Body positions, expressions, groupings and lighting. There are those dancers though who always seem to be in my frame though and some who do not make it in. I try and spread the shots out to get everyone, but it is difficult at times isolating one person in a crowd of moving dancers.

A shout out to the mom’s who help with the costume changes! Their day can be as stressful as the dancer’s.

Lets get to it!

1st place in category and winner of Best Costume.

135mm, f2.8, 1/250, iso 1250

I shot a 135 mm prime lens for the majority of the day and I think I went more vertical than horizontal because I was close to the stage. I love that lens, It is fast, crisp and clean. I so desire the infamous 70-200 2.8 IS but a bit out of budget for me at the moment.  I did alter my position in the room for a couple of the small groups and used a 200 mm prime but the light fall off was not too my liking so I reclaimed my spot against the wall, stage right within the first ten rows. I managed to get myself into the front row during the last two hours and used the 24-105 f4 for some wider takes.

It has proven very difficult to chose a favorite picture from the weekend but this one is definitely in the running. Form, texture and emotion! And my slightly bohked out daughter in the background.

Enchanted pSpThis next dance screamed black and white so I tinkered with a black and white conversion in Lightroom. One of our new dancers made this shot rock!

109 BW

And I should include my daughter here too…Love the expressions…The dance is called Monsters.


When we had a break of more than 90 minutes I cleared my card, putting the pictures on the laptop and external hard drive. Naturally once they go on a computer you want to see how they look, then you see some that you really like, then you edit those and of course once that is done might as well get them up for the parents and team to see. I was hoping this would generate some excitement for everyone. This is the first time I have turned around the shots that quick. I was also much more selective than last year in depressing the button so I did not take as many shots. I will admit that once I got home and viewed the posted ones on a desktop there are some that you can tell were quick edits on a small screen. I am currently going through everything on the desktop for full viewing pleasure.

This shot is from the rear of the room with the 200. Not quite as clean as the ones from the front. This is one of my favorite dances and one of the ones I will be keying in on for our next competition.


And another with the 200 from the first dance after I changed, looks like I was not dialed in quite yet. The shutter speed was too slow so we can see some motion blur here.


While I love my prime lenses it does prove difficult to compose in tight quarters with action. A few shots I have were great except a hand would be missing, or the feet, but live and learn for every press of the shutter is a new learning experience for me and one that I can build on for the next time.

This next dance the had the highest overall score for large groups, first place in its category and brought warmth to a cold and snowy day. It also had the judges overjoyed because the girls incorporated their props into their routine which apparently does not happen that often. This competition has the judges and the audience all on one level, the stage is elevated about three feet off the ground, so heads are always in the way and I am constantly cursing at them. This is also the reason I prefer to shoot at an angle at this venue and do my best to avoid said heads in the way.


Much like any event you see a little bit of everything at these competitions – I will leave you with this…..

First I must preface this by saying….

It is not our dance….

Check out the shoes…..

Dance competition right????     speechless…..


Thanks for stopping by! Till next time…